Choose One Word to Anchor 2021

This time of year is usually where people (me included!) take a minute to pause and think about what went well, and make goals of what could be better. Some people refer to these goals as New Year’s resolutions. Think back to some resolutions you’ve made in past years – like eating healthier, working out more, reading more, watching less TV, picking up a new hobby, earning that promotion, going to Starbucks less (this is always a goal of mine), or going back to school. According to U.S. News, by mid-February, roughly 80% of resolutions fail. It’s so easy to overlook our resolutions because we might make too many, we might not keep them in the forefront of our mind, or in the case of 2020, we might have experienced a shift in priorities.

A few years ago, I read One Word that Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Jimmy Page, and Dan Britton urging readers to select one word to guide their year as opposed to creating a laundry list of resolutions. Selecting one word instead of creating lots of resolutions provides clarity and focus. The word guides your year and inspires you daily without overwhelming you. For example, if you notice that you’re spending too much time on your phone at night and your mind wanders during conversations with others, you might choose “presence” as your word for 2021. Then, everyday, you would keep “presence” in your mind and can easily remind yourself to stay present in all situations.

After I read this book, I was instantly inspired to forgo New Year’s resolutions and select one word instead. I remember reading this book during winter break and immediately changing my lesson plans for the first day back after break to include time for my high school students to select one word to anchor their year! After engaging in some reflection, my students wrote their one word on a notecard, decorated it, and taped it somewhere in the room where they would be able to see it everyday. I did the same, and I taped my word, which was “pivot” to the whiteboard. When things went awry in the classroom, which they sometimes did, I looked at my anchor word, serving as my reminder to “pivot” and modify the activity and/or my mindset. 

If you want to handpick your word for 2021, here are some questions Gordon, Page, and Britton suggest to ask yourself:

  1. What do I need?
  2. What do I want my life to look like this year?
  3. What needs to go?

Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s time to choose your word! Here are some example words if you need some inspiration! 


Now that you’ve picked your word, you might be wondering how you can help your students pick a word to help guide their year. You’re just in luck! Here is a process you can use with your students:

  • Begin by sharing with students that they will select one word to help them grow this year. Depending on your students, feel free to provide a word bank.
  • After students select their one word, have them look up the definition of the word.
  • Then, have students write what the word means to them in their own words.
  • Finally, have students reflect on how this word will impact their life inside and outside of school.

Once all students have selected their words, think of a fun way to display them! Need some ideas?

  • Create a word cloud (use or and display it in your classroom (either physically or digitally in your learning management system).
  • Have students generate a visual representation of their word either with paper or through Google Draw and display them in your classroom (either physically or digitally in your learning management system).

Just remember, there are no wrong words! Choose a word that will help you be the best version of you in 2021. My word for 2021 is learn. I am heading into the data collection and analysis portion of my dissertation, I am still navigating my new role at the Kane County Regional Office of Education, and I have officially entered parenthood! “Learn” will anchor my year and encourage me to see every new and challenging situation as a learning experience! 

Instead of creating New Year’s resolutions, I challenge you this year to choose one word and to help your students choose one word to anchor 2021. What’s your word, and what does it mean to you? Share your word with us on social media by tagging @KaneCountyROE!   

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